It might not have the proper continent form that you have in mind. It might have countries that you have never heard of before. If you’re only thinking of Australia on hearing the word “Oceania”, then you’re simply missing out a lot of outstanding island nations and cultures. Keep reading to learn more about Oceania facts and secrets.
Pin on the Map
Oceanian islands extend over 100 million square kilometers in the central and south Pacific region but the actual land surface area is about 8.5 million square kilometers making it the world’s smallest continent by land area.
Oceanian islands are located in the Southern Hemisphere with 14 countries and 14 territories. Australia is the biggest land in Oceania and the 6th largest country in the world. Nauru is the smallest country in Oceania but the Pitcairn is the smallest land in the region. It is a British overseas territory.
On The Land
The islands of Oceania are divided into four sub-regions; Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.
But the way the islands were formed divided Oceania into three different groups;
Continental islands that were once part of a continent but sea-level changes and tectonic movement separated them, such as Australia.
High/Volcanic islands that are formed by underwater volcanic eruptions after cooling and hardening by the ocean, such as Fiji and American Samoa.
Low/Coral islands are made of corals -the skeletons of marine mammals- such as Willis Island.
Oceania is known for being a limited agricultural land with no deep-rooted river systems like the Nile or the Amazon. The longest river in Oceania is the Murray River which runs for around 1,558 miles.
Oceania has one of the most spectacular natural ecosystems on Earth. The Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that expands for 2.600 Km in The Coral Sea from the coast of Queensland in Australia.
It’s the biggest coral reef system in the world. It contains over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
Swimming, scuba diving, snorkelling, semi-subs tours and glass-bottom boat rides all seem like ordinary activities anywhere but here. You will be swimming next to six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle and 10% of the world’s total fish species in addition to some of the rarest marine species like the dugong -known as elephant of the sea-, the potato grouper, Great hammerhead sharks, Manta Rays and Nemo … Oh sorry! We meant the clownfish.
In addition to the outstanding marine life in Oceania, this continent is known for its exceptional wildlife; especially marsupials that carry the offspring in the pouch such as kangaroos, wombat and koalas.
The national animals there are unique, rare and endemic. These include the kiwi, the emu and the dugong. Poisonous species, such as the brown snake, tiger snake, Sydney funnel-web spider, red-back spider and jack jumper ants might be a problem there as its widespread is quite anxious. However, people of Oceania are educated about native wildlife and potential dangers, so they always manage to keep a safe distance and live in peace with the animals. Wildlife attacks in Oceania happen rarely.
Oceania has a few breathtaking mountain ranges which include the Great Dividing Range, The Blue Mountains and the Australian Alps in Australia, Kaikoura Ranges and the Southern Alps in New Zealand, Owen Stanley Range and Bismarck Range in Papua New Guinea.
Mount Wilhelm in the Bismarck range is one of the highest mountains in Oceania which is 4,509 m high. Most of the Oceanian mountains are volcanic ones, such as Mount Tomanivi in Fiji, Mount Lamington in Papua New Guinea, Mount Yasur in Vanuatu and the North Island volcanic plateau in New Zealand.
Deserts in Oceania are located in Australia and New Zealand as the rest of Oceania is mainly composed of small islands.
The central Australian desert is the most famous due to the huge 863 m red rock of Uluru in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Uluru is an iconic attraction in Australia that was once sacred by the indigenous people.
The Oceanian Islands are tropical ones with the sun, sea, tropical breeze and tropical rain such as Bora Bora and Tahiti.
The Oceanian lands are paradises on earth, yet they have the highest diversity and frequency of all types of natural disasters known to man such as floods, earthquakes, wildfires, landslides and drought.
Australia’s deadliest disaster was the Cyclone Mahina in 1899 in Queensland with an unknown number of deaths.
Meet the People
Oceania is the 2nd least populous continent in the world after Antarctica with only 43 million inhabitants living there. Australia is the most crowded country with around 25 million people. Nauru is the least populated country in Oceania, and the 3rd least-populous country in the world, with less than 11 thousand people.
There are thousands of languages spoken in Oceania. The Papuan languages -about 850 different types- are the most widely spoken native languages with about 4 million speakers in different countries like Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and neighboring countries.
Australia has a high lingual and cultural diversity as a result of immigration. Aside from English, Australians speak more than 300 languages, such as Mandarin, Italian, Greek and Arabic.
This down under land is home to the world’s most diverse range of indigenous cultures that started thousands of years ago with Oceanian ancestors coming from the southeast of Asia and expanding into further remote islands.
The Lapita was an early culture with influential arts that started between 1500 BCE and 500 BCE. They are believed to be the ancestors of the modern-day cultures of Polynesia and Micronesia with their ceramic sculptures and pottery found in Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
The first European explorers reached Oceania by 1500. All the previous artistic and architectural traditions continued, along with the emerging new cultures that were quite similar to the western ones.
The size of both the territory and population with the availability of natural resources and minerals made Australia and New Zealand the richest two Countries in Oceania. Unlike the Kiribati island which is the poorest country in Oceania that lacks skilled workers and has a remote scattered location so there’s almost no tourism income.
Oceanian people have mastered unique and unusual sports, such as netball, rugby, cricket and Australian Rules football. They have even set many organizational committees to protect and promote regional sports such as the OSFO (Organization of Sports Federations of Oceania), OSA (Oceania Sports Alliance) and OAA (Oceania Athletics Association).
The main music genre in this part of the world is called the Pacific Reggae. It’s the offspring of mixing blues, jazz and mento with a repeated rhythm that will give you chills.
Yet each island has its specific traditional music and dance that have been passing over generations like the Hula dance in Polynesia and the Kaimatoa in Kiribati.
But nothing can stand in the face of the ancestral war cry of The Haka dance of the Māori culture originating in New Zealand. It was done to scare their opponents; the warriors would use aggressive facial expressions, foot-stamping and rhythmic body slapping while singing: “Ka mate, ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!”, the song wonders if that battle would be the death of them or would they live!
Take a Walk
Oceania is a beautiful land of beaches, forests, deserts, lakes, waterfalls, mountains and everything in between. Here are our picks of Oceania’s many hidden gems.
Waitomo glowworm caves – New Zealand
Get ready to be amazed by the magical bioluminescent larvae above; as you glide into the world-famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves with expert guides to explain the caves’ geological significance. Enjoy other activities, such as black water rafting, zip-line activities, Ruakuri Bushwalk hiking and the Waitomo caves museum tours. This place has the whole package!
Lake MacDonnell – Australia
Australia is full of salt lakes but none is compared to the remarkable Lake MacDonnell which is a few kilometers south of Penong. The lake is split by a causeway with dreamy pink on one side and relaxing blue on the other side. It’s totally worth a stop for a picture especially in spring and summer times when the sun is casting its rays over the shimmering pink.
Bouma National Heritage Park – Taveuni Island, Fiji
It’s a 150 sq. km rainforest to satisfy your love of nature. a particular highlight of the Bouma Park is the crater lake of Tagimaucia where the rare Tagimaucia flower blooms. You can also visit the Tavoro Waterfalls where you can swim in the cool volcanic pools and take photos of the veil-like streams of water in the background.
You can hike through the rainforest to ancient ruins near Vidawa and kayak the Lavena Coastal Walk; admiring the rare tropical plants and the impressive diversity of birds.
Oceanian people have built wonders over the years starting with the heaviest coin on earth thousands of years ago to out-of-this-world buildings and towns in recent years.
Sydney Opera House – Australia
A world-famous architectural wonder standing on Sydney Harbor welcoming people from all over the world to enjoy spectacular events within. It’s the youngest site to ever enter the UNESCO World Heritage Site list due to its exceptional engineering innovation. If you’re into classy tuxedo nights, we recommend booking a concert there on your next trip to Australia.
Hobbiton – New Zealand
A place for the die-hard fans of the magical world of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit”. It’s the original movie set for the outstanding trilogies. The site is open for tourists in Matamata, New Zealand.
Tours with experienced guides will take you through the Hobbiton highlights including the Hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, Shire’s rest and the party tree. You will notice how exquisitely this place was created down to the last leave! No wonder that the Hobbiton has won many honorable and cultural awards.
Rai of Yap – Yap Island, Micronesia
Imagine walking around with a man-sized stone to pay for your shopping list! Well, the Yapese did that. They even crossed seas with the “Rai stones” to trade with neighboring islands. The Yap Island is only 100 km² with an amazing indigenous culture that goes back to 500 AD. Don’t miss the chance to capture a photo with the Aragonite stones that are believed to be the world’s heaviest currency. Some of the stones weigh 7 tons. The best time to pay a visit to the Yap Island is around the annual Homecoming Summer Festival on June the 15th to experience Canoe rides, stick dances and traditional clothes and crafts.
Emu VS Humans
Back in 1932, about 20.000 emus invaded the fields and ate the crops in the Campion district in Australia. Those were times of the worldwide great economic depression. The farmers requested aid from the Australian military to defend their food. Machine guns were useless against the smart and incredibly fast-moving emus. The Australian troops realized it was a lost cause and stood down after wasting 25.000 ammo in killing only 200 emus. Long story short, the mighty emu overcame the man!